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Trusted bank clerk faces jail for phantom transfers

PUBLISHED: 16:30 15 December 2011

A bank clerk who plundered £20,000 from a customer’s account in a series of bogus transactions is facing jail.

Tharini Navaratnarajah, 30, abused her position as a “trusted member of staff” to create phantom standing orders on a stranger’s account.

She then arranged for the cash to be transferred into accounts belonging to bed and breakfast owner Hossein Kazemi Mehrabadi, 44 and his wife.

The pair practised their deception as part of a wider plan to raise funds for a “criminal gang”, the Old Bailey was told.

Navaratnarajah denied fraud, while Mehrabadi denied acquiring criminal property and dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit, but both were convicted after a week-long trial.

Two rogue transactions took place at the Barclays branch in Forest Gate, on June 2 last year, when Navaratnarajah used a colleague’s computer to try and cover her tracks,

“She worked as a trusted member of staff. She had, literally, the keys to the branch,” said Ian Paton, prosecuting.

“But on that day she took the opportunity to access the workstation of another employee who had gone on a cigarette break.

“She set up the two transactions to Mr Mehrabadi’s account and on the face of if, to the bank’s eyes, they thought it was her colleague,” he added.

A total of £10,000 ended up in Mehrabadi’s current account, while another £10,000 was sent to his wife’s account.

Over the next few days, he set up a new savings account, into which he transferred £6,500. He then withdrew £1,000 in cash from his local Barclays branch in Bishop’s Stortford.

An unnamed man also tried to withdraw £9,000 from a branch in King Street in the City of London. “For various reasons proposed the transaction rang significant alarm bells,” said Mr Paton.

“The police were summoned and that man was arrested in possession of money. But more significantly in his possession was Mr Mehrabadi’s bank account card.”

An investigation began and CCTV footage from the branch showed Navaratnarajah using her colleague’s machine at the time the standing orders were created.

Mr Paton added: “Mehrabadi and Navaratnarajah are in fact the cannon fodder, the foot soldiers, in a criminal gang.

‘There are others who, because of their loyalties, these two defendants won’t name and shame and have chosen to brazen it out.’

Both Navaratnarajah and Mehrabadi told the police they had been “innocent dupes”.

Navaratnarajah claimed she had been threatened by knife-wielding “boys with hoodies” who had confronted her outside the bank and later placed a note in her handbag instructing her to make the transactions.

“She says that is why she did what she did. Because the nasty, wicked boys stuck a piece of paper in her bag,” said Mr Paton.

Her co-defendant said he had handed over his bank cards, PIN numbers and statements to a stranger at Stratford station on the pretext of arranging a £20,000 loan for his business.

The customer whose account was targeted, Lloyd Pinder, of Mill Hill, noticed the cash was missing on June 8 and was later reimbursed in full, although the bank have yet to recover the total sum lost.

Navaratnarajah, of Third Avenue, Manor Park, denied fraud by abuse of position, while Mehrabadi, of Dunmow Road, Bishop’s Stortford, denied acquiring criminal property and dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit.

They will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.


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